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Toxic Crystals, Fakes & Forgeries


Chalcanthite - a highly toxic, artificially grown crystal

POTENTIALLY TOXIC CRYSTALS


For those new to crystals, it can be a bit startling to find out that some minerals are actually regarded as toxic. Respecting the crystals for the beautiful, powerful, elemental forms that they are means taking some very real things into consideration when working with and handling the pieces in your collection. While the majority of crystals commonly available can be regarded as quite safe for general use, there are a few notable exceptions and certain practices to be avoided. First and foremost - please use a healthy dose of common sense when handling minerals! Keep crystals away from children until they can understand how to properly care for them, and wash your hands after handling as a very general rule.

Determining mineral toxicity is complicated and something that requires a strong knowledge of chemistry and biology. The potential inhalation or ingestion of toxic mineral particles is the biggest cause for concern. Many toxic minerals are also soluble to varying degrees, which can liberate potentially harmful elements from within their crystalline structure. Crystals should never be consumed in any form, under any circumstance. If you are unaware of a crystal's chemical formula, please exercise caution. Only gem essences or elixirs created via the indirect method of preparation are recommended (place crystals in a separate glass inside the bowl or jug of water, without the contents coming into any direct contact with the water). Yoni eggs have also become popular in recent years, posing particular concern not only from the possible absorption of toxic elements, but also due to the potential friability of many stones.

While it is important to be aware about toxic stones, it is also necessary to distinguish the qualities of a pure element from those of a mineral compound. A real life example would be NaCl - better known as common table salt - which is composed of the poisonous gas Chlorine and the explosive metal Sodium, yet it is rendered safe and stable in its compound form. Some crystal lists have sparked needless alarm without taking into consideration the stability of many mineral compounds, even if they do contain a singularly toxic element within their structure. However, the differences between solubility and stability can be subtle, and Mindat.com is the best resource for any additional research. The following is by no means a complete or comprehensive list - nor does it claim to outline all of the exact or potential risks - but the hope is that it may serve as a rough guide to help navigate some of the more infamously toxic minerals (I have taken the liberty to designate 'avoid completely' to some carcinogenic, radioactive and especially dangerous minerals below which I personally feel do not have a place in domestic collections). Be especially cautious of Sulfide and Halide mineral groups as these are the most chemically reactive. Gem cutters & lapidary hobbyists should take all appropriate safety measures to avoid breathing in dust when cutting or grinding any type of stone. Please also note that there are still a great many crystals not mentioned in this list that, while they may not be considered inherently toxic, are still not suitable for direct method elixirs due to their friable or soluble natures.




ANGLESITE - treat with extra care - contains lead; may react with acids in the skin; keep away from children & pets, avoid breathing in dust, avoid contact with water, handle infrequently & wash hands after handling


ARSENOPYRITE - treat with extra care - contains arsenic & sulphur; releases toxic fumes when heated; avoid placing in a sunny window, keep away from children & pets, avoid breathing in dust, avoid contact with water, handle infrequently & wash hands after handling


ASBESTOS INCLUSIONS - special mention - minerals such as Serpentine, Tiger's Eye, Pietersite & Riebeckite Quartz contain asbestos within their crystalline structure, but in their polished form are considered very unlikely to pose any kind of risk; however, raw specimens of asbestos-bearing minerals should be treated with extra care; keep raw specimens away from children & pets, avoid breathing in dust, handle infrequently & wash hands after handling


AZURITE - treat with extra care - contains toxic levels of copper; keep away from children & pets, avoid breathing in dust, avoid contact with water, handle infrequently & wash hands after handling (especially raw specimens)


BETAFITE - avoid completely - contains radioactive uranium; not suitable for collections


CHALCANTHITE - avoid completely - contains dangerous amounts of copper in a highly soluble form; extremely toxic to human health & aquatic ecosystems; not suitable for collections


CHRYSOTILE - avoid completely - a variety of asbestos; carcinogenic; not suitable for collections


CINNABAR - treat with extra care - contains mercury; releases toxic fumes when heated; avoid placing in a sunny window, keep away from children & pets, avoid breathing in dust, avoid contact with water, handle infrequently & wash hands after handling


CERUSSITE - treat with extra care - contains lead; may react with acids in the skin; keep away from children & pets, avoid breathing in dust, avoid contact with water, handle infrequently & wash hands after handling


CROCIDOLITE - avoid completely - a variety of asbestos; carcinogenic; not suitable for collections


CROCOITE - treat with extra care - contains toxic hexavalent chromium & lead; very friable & soluble in acids; keep away from children & pets, avoid breathing in dust, avoid contact with water, handle infrequently & wash hands after handling


ERIONITE - avoid completely - a fibrous zeolite mineral; carcinogenic; not suitable for collections


GALENA - treat with extra care - contains lead; may oxidise & degrade to form